french

For three week straight I would ring trying to get a table at the elusive French Laundry. It was something I just had to cross off the bucket list.

The conversation would usually go as follows…

“Hi I am looking for a reservation for when you have next available.”

“Yes sir,and for how many?”

“Just two please.”

“OK. Just one moment while I look and see if anything is available.”

Long pause………

“Yes, sadly we have nothing available.”

Yes, I was on the verge of Patrick Bateman outbreak after hanging up the phone.

Located in Yountville, California, in the Napa Valley, The French Laundry is run by its owner Thomas Keller. The restaurant building dates back to 1900.

It has been frequently honoured with inclusion in the annual Restaurant Magazine list of the “Top 50 Restaurants in the World” and was named “Best Restaurant in the World” in 2003 and 2004. Since 2006, it has been awarded three stars in the Michelin Guide to San Francisco.

My competitive mindset was not going to give in for one minute.

Where there is a will, there is a way

53 calls later I broke them down and they gave in. The relief washes over me in an awesome wave.

Before I start, I am far from a high-fly food critique . However, I will not eat in McDonald’s as I think is cancerous, sorry Ray Kroc.

I take care of what I eat and it can be as normal as a $7 burrito from Whole Foods about five times a week. I dig them!

I too fall asleep when someone gets all snobby on me about food, or any subject, give it that. I don’t think there is any need for it. However, what I do have admiration for is the pain, time and sacrifice it takes for someone to dedicate their life to perusing their purpose and perfecting their craft. In any given field.

So how do you get into any big name restaurant.

The protocol:

  1. The real secret is to know when to call.
  2. Go straight to the source and call the restaurant and find the specifics. What date do I need to call and what time.
  3. Answer: “The French Laundry takes booking two months to the calendar date, and the phone lines open at 10 am”
  4. Do not call at 10am. Start smiling and dialing at 9:45 and do not stop till you get through.
  5. Even then you are not guaranteed of getting in. Most bookings will already have been snagged up by some big wigs who knew someone who worked there or through a private membership club. But your hustle will prevail in the long run, I can guarantee.

Thomas Keller:

First we would have to start with some more information about the artist behind it.

The act of cooking is a simple equation: Ingredients + execution

The Ingredients

“When ingredients arrive at the restaurant they are, in one sense, already finished. At the stove, we have no control over how an animal was raised or the way a peach was harvested. As chefs, all we can do is to carefully select our supplies and then work with them to ensure we get the best possible ingredients. Developing ingredients is a fundamental part of any great chefs work. Our responsibility as chefs then is to support these individuals by executing dishes for your enjoyment that highlight and elevate the fruits of their labour.” Thomas Keller.

The Execution

After dedicating 19 months to making phone calls and begging family members, friends and investors to raise money for The French laundry, his persistence finally paid off. He was 39 when he finally saw the financial reward

From a young age, he was thrown into the kitchen, learning all of his early skills from his mum. “She was a work alcoholic. My work ethic and attention to detail all came from her.I had to be organised and effective.” Keller believed that washing dishes in his early years taught him where his learning and discipline lessons came from.

There seems to be a common theme with the world’s best in any category. They all do what they love.

If you woke up and went to work just to make money, you will only end up quitting your job at some point. Once your money is gone you are back to square one. Even if you fail doing what you love every day you are always better off as you will always have your desire for what you do. Desire is your safety blanket, it will always be there when you do what you love.

There is no exception to the rule, as exampled by Thomas Keller.

“Passion is not good enough.” If one wants to work at the French laundry the only answer Keller is looking for is desire.”

For more on Thomas Keller, here is his fascinating story.

“Desire, desire, desire, not passion. Passion come and goes like motivation ” TK

The Pudding 

If you want to experience/ own the very best in say; cars, real estate, hotels – the barriers to entry may seem somewhat unobtainable. They all carry significant price tags.

However to have the world’s best food? To dine at the French Laundry will cost you $290 (alcohol not included). Which is still a phenomenal amount of money.  But, for a special occasion it may be one of the few things in which may be slightly more reachable to experience the very best the world has to offer. Whether it be with a stranger, a friend, family member or a loved one. There is nothing like the art of conversation and spending time with someone over a dinner table. When we look back over at our time, we will value you moment that we shared and not the things we buy to impress others.

To me these are some of the most precious moments which life can offer. And perhaps phoning 53 times to experience something a man has sacrificed his entire life to pursue, and share it with someone you love, is not too crazy after all.

Long meals with great friends. Not a bad combo to spend a chunk of your time.

Update:

Recently I hosted my first ever dinner party. Cooking is something which I have personal put off for years.

Why? Answer: Laziness.

Cooking is like playing the piano, or gardening. The more you practice the better you get. It is very rewarding. (I only wish golf was like this!)

A challenge to you if you hate cooking and perhaps have never even cooked before.. 

Define you fear> Being a great cook, starts with cooking your first meal.

  1. Send out an invite to a bunch of friends for a date in the future.
  2. Not only will you have something to look forward to, so will all your friends.
  3. In my very early stages of cooking, what I have learned is that it is all in the preparation. Master one or two dishes, buy great ingredients and keep it simple.“Let things taste of what they are.” Alice Waters, Chez Panisse.
  4. Stock up on a ship’s worth of red wine just in case your guests are forcing feeding themselves. Always drink the best bottle first, and tails off from there 🙂
  5. Best of luck!

Let me know how it goes.